A doctor has warned against the SNP-backed plan to fork out £7 million so people can consume illegal drugs in “consumption rooms”.
The rooms, approved by authorities in Glasgow on Wednesday (September 28), will allow people to consume drugs including heroin and cocaine under the supervision of trained health professionals.
The facility will be based at a health centre in the east end of Glasgow and is a pilot scheme aimed at tackling drug deaths.
But Dr Lawrence Cunningham, medical editor of the UK Care Guide, warns the rooms could have unwanted consequences, including making illegal drug use seem normal.
He said: “Whilst these rooms might help reduce harm and public disorder, there is a risk they could also inadvertently encourage substance abuse by creating an environment where drug use is seen as acceptable.”
In Scotland, 1,051 people died of drug misuse last year – making Scotland the country with the highest rate of deaths from drug misuse in Europe.
The project is set to open by next summer and will run for three years, costing a total of £7 million.
The plans were approved by Glasgow’s Integration Joint Board during an online meeting on Wednesday morning. There was a proposal for a room where people could smoke illegal drugs, but this was removed.
Dr Saket Priyadarshi, associate medical director of Glasgow alcohol and drug recovery services, said the pilot scheme would “reduce drug-related harms” for individuals and give them “opportunities for treatment, care and recovery”.
However, Annemarie Ward, chief executive of the charity Faces and Voices of Recovery UK, warned that so-called “opportunities for treatment” capable of “delivering genuine freedom from addiction” simply don’t exist.
“Glasgow, for instance, provides just 23 rehab beds, each offering only a precious 12-week window for individuals to strive toward their goal of liberation from addiction,” she said.
Ms Ward also warned the scheme is focused more on “palliative care” and “symptom management” rather than offering a “transformative pathway towards recovery”.
“The rich get rehab the poor get methadone,” she wrote.
She added: “When the government officials & others in the sector say ‘treatment’ they mean harm reduction interventions, like clean needles, wound care, substitute prescriptions, Heroin assisted treatment. When the public hears ‘treatment’ they think of detox & rehab.”
Dr Cunningham holds a similar view. He said a more “holistic approach” is needed to combat illegal drug use.
“This includes providing comprehensive mental healthcare, employment assistance, and housing support to those struggling with addiction,” he said.
“These supportive services can address the root causes of drug use and offer more sustainable solutions. You will find local authorities are able to provide this support but accessing it is, of course, a different matter.”
Meanwhile, some members of the public remain baffled about the difference between a “drugs room” and “the pub”.